A few years ago I had a skating lesson that really helped me with my knee alignment from none other than figure skating great Ben Agosto. I thought I’d share my notes in case they might help someone else.
One day I showed up to my rink and Ben was on the ice training a young local pairs team. They lived north of me, Ben lived south, and our rink was in the middle. Ben had just moved to our area and had time to give me a lesson the next week. He’s a kind, modest, and outgoing person who put me at ease.
At the time I was doing a round of PT for my knees and using the Off-Ice Edge. Ben told me he had thoughts of going into sports medicine eventually and he certainly knew all about the body mechanics of skating alignment. Here’s most of the lesson:
2/6/12 Lesson Ben Agosto. Basic stroking: Getting down and getting power with the skating foot before the stroke. He felt I was doing pretty good on that. Staying down longer. I was getting down, and rising fully at the end of the stroke (good) but not staying down at all long enough. I practiced keeping the knee down longer, and that went well. He told me to keep the free foot more back, going straight behind the hip and not off to the side. I had trouble doing both (keeping leg more back and staying down longer) at the same time, but got a little better.
Discussed activating and using glut med (gluteus medius) more in a variety of contexts. He said he thought 100% of skaters have weak glut med muscles because we use the quads and IT band so much.
Started standing by the boards, practicing sinking into an edge and rising up while using the glut med. He suggested putting one hand on the hip to feel the glut med and make sure it’s working as you do the edge.
I explained that I do exactly this using the Off-Ice Edge and have discussed this kind of thing with my PT. He asked if I did this with a mirror. He thought what I was doing sounded great and reiterated that when you don’t use the glut med, and pronate, it keeps putting stress on the inside of the knee and eventually aggravates it. Then you try to do a sit spin, bend even more, don’t have the strength for it and turn the knee in a lot to compensate and aggravate the knee even more. He said that whenever he hears of a skater with knee pain the glut med is what he thinks about.
He suggested practicing raising the toes to get further back on the blade while doing the exercise. He explained how the rocker has a sharper curve in front, so if you are more on the front of the blade you are on a smaller part of the blade and therefore both less stable and getting less of the blade into the ice. So on both forward and backward edges try to raise the toes a little and get a little further back on the blade. He said this would also help build up the arch of the foot.
Did an exercise on the circle, doing a forward edge. He said that he has flat feet, wears orthotics, and has worked hard to not pronate over the years (and claims he still does). Upper body faces into the circle as you skate the edges. Practiced doing the edge with the foot forward and then bringing it behind. Bring it behind on the circle. I had been putting it too much off to the side, pulling my weight off the circle. The right way is much further behind, and that is indeed where it needs to be to stay on the circle.
On the forward outside edge, we tend to let our hip fall into the circle and our knee fall outside the circle (into a turned-in position which will aggravate it). He told me to do the opposite. Feel the little toe pressing down into the ice. Actively press the knee into the circle and the hip away from the circle. Turn the free foot out. Use the glut med.
We then worked on the figure 8 pattern for the adult gold moves. He again had me try to use the glut med all the time while skating the pattern. We worked on the pushes. Make a bigger C push. Feel like you are pushing slowly and strongly through water (much stronger push). When doing a stronger push I’ll need to stabilize much more strongly, so again, use the glut med on the skating side to accomplish that. Hold the free foot in front after the push a little longer. Don’t hesitate between the C and holding the free foot in front. Make it like a roller coaster that has momentum and keeps on going.
Don’t waste the energy you’ve just gotten from the push. I have been rocking back and forth on the blade and wasting the energy. To stop that, stabilize before each change of position. Imagine the circle as a 3-D, striped beach ball that you are leaning against. Stay leaning into the circle with each change of position. For the second change of position (on the back outside edge) lean your back into the circle. Let the free hip open. (In general he likes the hip to be closed or open, not halfway in between). I was keeping my free hip closed, he realizes that is my attempt to stabilize it in light of my turnout. But what I need to do instead is turn the hip out but with control. How? You can guess which muscle he wants me to use to do that.
He had me skate an entire pattern of the Fiesta Tango trying to use the glut med on every step. I asked if it were just the skating leg, since he had said use the glut med on the skating leg, and he said that no, it would be helpful on the free side as well. Squeeze the rear end together to activate the glut med on both sides. He said it looked better, more stable, when I did it that way.